Earnest Pugh is a dynamic musical force of unparalleled proportion. As a powerhouse vocalist, songwriter, producer, industry executive, successful record label owner and philanthropist, Pugh has demonstrated remarkable gifts and unequivocally earned the title of Gospel’s Leading Man.
His approach to music is legendary, and his ability to seemingly effortlessly navigate a five-octave continues to capture audiences worldwide. Raised in Memphis, TN, with a foundation in church, Pugh was the seventh of nine children. With an innate love for music and his own gifts, he idolized the vocal deliveries and stage presence of gospel music giants such as Vanessa Bell Armstrong and the late Daryl Coley. “I would literally stand in the mirror and pretend that I was them in concert,” he vividly recalls of his childhood.
These early visions shaped his youth and have truly become a reality, as he has shared the stage and collaborated with numerous chart-topping artists, including Beverly Crawford, Shirley Caesar, Rance Allen, Richard Smallwood, Byron Cage and Lalah Hathaway.
Although Pugh has always known he was born to sing gospel music, his journey was not without its challenges. Having begun solo performances at 14 years old, Pugh seemed destined for success in the gospel industry. After 15 years of active duty, Pugh retired from the military and served as a worship leader at prominent churches in Houston and Atlanta. Growing as a sought-after worship leader, he relocated to Washington, DC, to join the staff of Ebenezer AME under the musical leadership of Byron Cage. Collectively, these audiences helped him to solidify his approach to gospel music not only as a vocalist, but more importantly, as a passionate worship leader.
Feeling more drawn to his calling as an artist, he recorded a demo and sent it to all the major gospel record labels. “Everybody turned me down,” he says, but that didn’t deter his focus or his faith. Pugh’s mother had always been a source of inspiration and support. She reminded him of one of her favorite scriptures: “Faith without works is dead.” “I simply knew I had to work my faith another way,” he recalls.
With the help of some dear friends, Pugh financed his first recording in 2006. Aptly titled “A Worshipper’s Perspective,” the radio single, “Wrapped Up, Tied Up, Tangled Up,” reached the Top 30 on the now defunct Radio & Records gospel chart.
While his professional life seemed to be wrapped in success, his personal life became spiraled and tangled beyond his repair. The cords of an 18-year marriage, with two wonderful children, became worn and frayed by his intense tour schedule. His mother, his lifeline of support and confidence, suddenly became terminally ill and passed.
“My mother was my everything. She was my motivator. I had to pull myself together because she had taught to me if I minister to God’s people, God would minister to me. If I remained faithful to God, He would remain faithful to me,” Pugh says. Those words have proven themselves true throughout Pugh’s life and career.
In 2009, Pugh produced a live recording, from which he released “Earnest Pugh Live – Rain On Us.” Pugh believed that orchestrating a live recording would allow him the opportunity to expose his unique gifts as a leading male vocalist and worshipper to a broader audience, and build momentum for the CD. His strategy was correct. When the single “Rain On Us” was released to radio, it catapulted him to super stardom in the gospel music industry. The song quickly rose to the #1 position on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart and became the sixth most popular gospel song of 2010. The ensuing singles “The Great I Am” peaked at #15 and “Perfect Peace” reached #22 on the same chart. The CD rose to #2 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums Chart.
Recognized for his undeniably rich vocals, Pugh released “Earnestly Yours” in 2010. A soaring ballad from the CD, “I Need Your Glory,” became a #1 radio hit and dominated Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart for nine consecutive weeks in the summer of 2011. “Earnestly Yours” broke history as the first gospel album within the eOne distribution system to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart.
He has since enjoyed other Top 30 radio hits songs such as “Every Promise” with Lalah Hathaway. Passionate for inspiring audiences with live vocals, Pugh went international and hosted a live recording in the Bahamas in 2013 before an audience of over 6,000. From this recording he released “The W.I.N. Experience (Worship In Nassau),” which included the chart-topping radio single “I Believe You Most.” The single was co-written by Pugh and produced by the Grammy Award and American Music Award winning PAJAM production trio of Paul “pda” Allen, Walter “Stone” Kearny and J. Moss. Notable singles included “More of You,” written by Pugh, and “All Things Through Christ,” buoyed by the stirring vocals of iconic gospel singer Rance Allen.
An industry executive, Pugh released this CD through his own P-Man Music label with distribution via Nashville’s Central South Distribution (CSD). P-Man Music is Pugh’s passion not only as a singer but producer and executive. From this venture, he has been able to produce and bring new artists to the forefront of gospel music. His success has been paramount and consistent, including eight CDs to date with over ten Top 30 Billboard Singles.
A veteran and philanthropist at heart, Pugh launched Veterans Emergency Relief (VER), a non-profit organization that addresses privation issues (food, shelter and clothing) that veterans face on a daily basis. “I felt challenged me to evaluable my calling and identify how I can use my success and platform to help others.” The foundation has already proved beneficial in helping to meet vital needs.
His latest project, Survive, is scheduled to release on October 27th. With collaborations with Kierra Sheard, Nikki Ross, Hip Hop artist Sarg and pianist/artist, John Paul McGee, Survive also features an impressive roster of producers including Michael Bereal, Keith Williams, Lucius Hoskins and E. Devon Goodwin.
“I Need You to Breathe,” the initial single that peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Gospel Recurrent chart, is a passionate and soulful expression of the importance of a connection with God. In recognition of survivors, Pugh plans to pay tribute to survivors by donating a portion of proceeds from the album to the Hurricane Harvey Fund, which benefits survivors of the catastrophic storm. “As a Houston resident, I feel personally connected to the devastation and feel compelled to do everything I can to help bring restoration to a city and families that have meant so much to me.”